Takeaways from a Bad Week
Recently I had a bad week. Nothing in particular happened though. I was just in a bad mood. Every minor setback or inconvenience felt much bigger than it actually was (which generally seems to be the case). Things felt hopeless and dark. Rewind to the week before and you couldn't shake the smile off my face. I walked my dog in the sunshine and watched him with delight as he rolled around in the grass with unbridled joy. My heart burst with gratitude for my life, my new job, my husband, the Minneapolis skyline, the grass, the trees.... I mean, would you get a look at those brilliant green leaves??
So how is it that one's outlook could shift in such a short span of time? I suspect it has to do with being human. Humanity. But still, I wanted to be happy! I mean, isn't that the point after all? So I tried some tricks to shake the blues. I tried to "choose happiness." I shared an inspirational meme on my Facebook page. I attempted to "just relax." I drank beer. Basically, I was trying to arm wrestle myself. What didn't I think to try? To lose some of that control and remind myself of a little something called impermanence. The way I see it impermanence is both a blessing and a bitch. We can be comforted by the fact that nothing is permanent and will change, so in those less-than-awesome times we might find a little relief in that it will pass. The downside is if we really like something, such a relationship or our neighborhood, it will likely change (not always for the worst, mind you, but change in general can scare us despite all the good things that can come from change). That's the trick, you see. To be OK with the impermanent nature of our lives in both respects. And that being OK and non-reactive part is called equanimity. Two key words here: Impermanence. Equanimity. Add 'em to your vocab.
You might be asking, "Yes. But what does it all mean, Basil?" Here's an experience I had during the bad week. One day I stood in the kitchen fixing lunch when I felt myself in between states of happiness and sadness. Just somewhere in between. The best way I can describe it is that I was three bodies (I swear this doesn't turn "woo-woo" so please stick with me). Happy Katie. Sad Katie. Objective Katie. Objective Katie stood in the middle and looked side to side at the happy and sad counterparts. First, Objective Katie recognized that she too was Happy Katie. Remember the week before? All that green grass, the sheer delight when the dog stopped and rolled around in said-beautiful grass, and let's not forget about those magnificent trees! Despite this, Objective Katie noticed that it sure was difficult to choose happiness in that moment but she could feel the sensation of joy. It was present. On the other side, Sad Katie projected heaviness, hopelessness and had a seemingly constant back up supply of tears ready to burst through the dams of her eyes. This too was a sensation that was present. Albeit not great for her productivity or for being social but it was the experience of humanity. In this experience, Objective Katie decided to choose neither happiness or sadness. She just let herself be open and let in whatever emotion(s) showed up. And then Objective Katie stopped talking in the third person.
This experience and bad week boiled down to this for me. Allowing oneself to live between and with sensations is OK. You don't need to choose happiness, just relax or do anything that some meme on Instagram tells you to do. You can practice equanimity and observe the impermanent nature of your life. Practice self-care and allow your sensations to shift without force or control. Just be good to yourself. And allow yourself to be human.
To wrap, I think Louis C.K. successfully conveys this point in this clip when he explains why he doesn't want his daughters to have a cell phone: